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Bread (2)

Etymology

BreadsThe word itself, Old English bread, is common in various forms to many Germanic languages; such as Frisian brea, Dutch brood, German Brot, Swedish bröd, Norwegian and Danish brød; it has been claimed to be derived from the root of brew.

 It may be connected with the root of break, for its early uses are confined to broken pieces, or bits of bread, the Latin crustum, and it was not until the 12th century that it took the place—as the generic name for bread—of hlaf in Gothic: modern English loaf), which appears to be the oldest Teutonic name. Old High German hleib and modern German Laib, Polish chleb, Russian хлеб (khleb) all derive from the Indo-European word for "loaf". The Finnish leipä and Estonian leib, though not Indo-European, borrowed from the same root.

Cultural and political importance of bread

As a foodstuff of great historical and contemporary importance, in many cultures in the West and Near and Middle East bread has a significance beyond mere nutrition.  The Lord's Prayer, for example, contains the line "Give us this day our daily bread"; here, "bread" is commonly understood to mean necessities in general.  Bread is also significant in Christianity as one of the elements (alongside wine) of the Eucharist; see sacramental bread.  The word companion comes from Latin com- "with" + panis "bread". 

The Roman poet Juvenal satirised superficial politicians and the public as caring only for "panem et circenses" (bread and circuses).  In Israel the most usual phrase in work related demonstrations is "lekhem, avoda" [bread, work], and during the 1950s, the beatnik community used the term bread as a euphemism for money.  In Cockney Rhyming Slang, bread means money and is derived from the phrase bread and honey.  The word bread is now commonly used around the world in English speaking countries as a synonym for money (as also is the case with the word dough).

The cultural importance of "bread" goes beyond slang, to serve as a metaphor for basic necessities and living conditions in general.  A "bread-winner" is a household's main economic contributor and has little to do with actual bread-provision, for example. This also goes along with the phrase "putting bread on the table".  A remarkable or revolutionary innovation is often referred to as "the greatest thing since sliced bread". In Russia in 1917, Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks promised "Peace, Land, and Bread."  The term "breadbasket" is often used to denote an agriculturally productive region. In Slavic cultures bread and salt is offered as a welcome to all guests. In India, life's basic necessities are often referred to as "roti, kapra aur makan" [bread, cloth and house].

The political significance of bread is considerable. In Britain in the nineteenth century the inflated price of bread due to the Corn Laws caused major political and social divisions, and was central to debates over free trade and protectionism. The Assize of Bread and Ale in the thirteenth century demonstrated the importance of bread in medieval times by setting heavy punishments for short-changing bakers, and bread appeared in the Magna Carta a half-century earlier.

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